Wednesday, 22 September 2010

04. November 10, 2008

Dear Lyudmila Yevgenievna!

Thank you for your letter and for the interest you have shown.

My memories are of a very fragmented (emotional) nature, by which I mean that I can remember what is emotionally tinted, the rest almost not at all.

Sometimes a substitution of a memory takes place, when I remember something that was actually told to me by my parents. Nevertheless, since childhood I “distinctly” wanted to become a plant director. Actually, this is not surprising: my parents had worked all their lives at a plant, the day care centre I attended was the plant’s, the Pioneer camp [12] was the plant’s, the plant director was the most important person everywhere.

My mom and dad, as I now understand, extremely disliked the Soviet power, but they did everything to shield me from their influence, believing that they could ruin life for me. And I grew up as a “true believer”, a Komsomol member without any doubts about who were the friends and who were the enemies.

Choosing my paths in life, I focused not just on the chemical industry [13], but also on defense, since I was convinced that the most important thing was protection from “external enemies”.

The Komsomol work at the institute [14] was, of course, not a manifestation of a political vocation, but a striving for leadership. Personally, I was never involved in ideology, the organizational work was my thing.

Construction brigades, work practice at a plant - I liked all this very much, specifically as an opportunity to realize myself as a production person, as a manager.

When after the institute they assigned [15] me to a ministry - the Gosgortekhnadzor [16] - I was extremely disappointed, since I wanted to go to a plant. So I asked to work for the district committee of the Komsomol, to avoid working in a ministry for three years.

Then came the NTTM centres [17], business, and the defense of the White House [18]...

The defense of the White House (1990)

It is interesting that the secretary of the party committee at the institute proposed to me to continue my “Komsomol” career in 1987, and he was amazed when I chose the “self-financed stuff” [19].

Now, as concerns the “barriers”, for me they consisted of one thing: never to alter [20] my position under the pressure of force instead of arguments. We had a wonderful rector [21] G.A. Yagodin. He called me “my most disobedient secretary” (meaning secretary of the Komsomol faculty committee). He could easily have broken me, but he didn’t do it, thus giving me the opportunity to toughen up. Unfortunately, he left the institute for a promotion in 1985.

I was lucky a second time. The secretary of our Sverdlov district party committee was Kislova, and a member of the buro was the minister of the construction materials industry, B.N. Yeltsin. I got a real lesson in courage from them, when they were were “given the cold shoulder”, but they did not give in. By the way, Kislova did not betray Yeltsin. What this must have cost her I can only imagine.

By the way, while we are on the subject, the deputy [22] for the Tomsk Oblast, where I was working in 1999, was Y.K. Ligachev, who did everything possible to put me “through the wringer”. I forbade our people to attack him in return, since he was already an elderly person, although there was plenty we could have said against him.

I considered myself a member of Yeltsin’s team. One of the many. It was precisely for this reason that I went to defend the White House in 1991 and the city hall in 1993, it was precisely for this reason that I entered into the informal pre-election headquarter’s staff in 1995-1996. I suppose this was perhaps the most dangerous undertaking in my life (almost). It is specifically because of Boris Nikolaevich that I did not come out against Putin, even though I had my opinion on him.

Now, about the “oligarch scene”, I've never liked such an all-encompassing concept. We were completely different people. Gusinsky and Berezovsky, Bendookidze and Potanin, me and Prokhorov. We had completely different objectives in life and completely different perceptions of life. There were oilmen and metallurgists, mass media magnates and bankers. And even this will probably be not quite correct.

I think I can define myself as a Voltairean, i.e. a supporter of free thinking, of freedom of speech. B.N. Yeltsin was my ideal in this sense, like G.A. Yagodin before him. Working with them did not provoke any feelings of inner protest in me.

The rout of NTV [23] (I had attempted to help them with money, which was used to incriminate me at the first trial) became my “Rubicon”. Specifically the destruction of the team, not the transfer of ownership, understand me correctly.

I must break off for now. Thank you for your letter. I hope for a continuation of our conversation.




[12] The Pioneer movement was an organization for children operated by a communist party. Typically children enter into the organization in elementary school and continue until adolescence. The adolescents then typically joined Komsomol.

[13] Chemical production - Khodorkovsky graduated in chemical engineering at the Moscow Mendeleev Institute of Chemistry and Technology in 1986.

[14] The institute is the Moscow Mendeleev Institute of Chemistry and Technology.

[15] The term "assignment" refers to the Soviet system of assigning college graduates to a job where it was deemed they could be most useful to the state.

[16] The Gosgortekhnadzor is the State Committee for Oversight of the Safe Conducting of Works in Industry and Mining Oversight Under the Council of Ministers of the USSR.

[17] The NTTM centers are Youth Scientific-Technical Creativity Centres, where perestroika-era commercial enterprises were created under the aegis of the Komsomol Central Committee.

[18] The defending the White House - in August 1990, citizens of Moscow began to gather around the White House - the House of the Government of the Russian Federation - and to erect barricades around it after a group of members of the Soviet Union's government had tried to take control of the country from Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev. The event destabilized the Soviet Union and is widely considered to have helped in bringing about both the demise of the Communist Party and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

[19] "Self financed" was a perestroika-era term to describe a new way of doing business: without funds provided by the state.

[20] Alter - the Russian verb изменять - izmenyat’ can mean “to alter”, but it can also mean “to betray”.

[21] A rector is a college president or provost.

[22] A deputy is a member of parliament.

[23] NTV is a Russian TV channel. It was founded in 1993 and attracted the best journalists and news anchors of the time. The channel set high professional standards in Russian television, giving live coverage and sharp analysis of current events. In 2001, the channel was very unpopular at the Kremlin. It fell into difficulties and was forced to shut down because of its debts with Gazprom. Mikhail Khodorkovsky tried in vain to save the channel, by offering to give it US$200 million.

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